Beautiful weather and a spectacular setting awaited family and friends of the Class of 2009 as they arrived at the newly remodeled Mountain Winery in Saratoga for the upper school’s eighth commencement exercises. Graduation was held on campus last year because of the extensive renovation to the famous music venue, and seniors were eager to be the first class to utilize the beautiful new space.
Music provided by Chris Florio’s chamber orchestra wafted over the amphitheater as guests arrived; then the ensemble played the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” as the graduating seniors, faculty, administration and Board of Trustees slowly paraded from the Winery’s main building, through the audience and down to their seats, their path lined by Gr. 7 students holding floral garlands. After the 2009 Graduation Chorus sang the “Star-Spangled Banner,” arranged and conducted by Susan Nace, Butch Keller, US head, welcomed the assembly. Vikram Nathan spent his last few moments as a Harker student delivering the valedictory address, and the chorus, this time including seniors who were members of vocal ensembles, returned to sing a poignant version of “You Raise Me Up,” conducted by Catherine Snider.
The keynote address was delivered by attorney Larry W. Sonsini, chairman of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Sonsini gave an overview of the turbulent and boom times of Silicon Valley, and urged the students not to stay fixed in habits; to keep interested in their priorities; and to try to remain optimistic by using unpredictability to their advantage.
Graduate Mohit Bansal, the outgoing president of the National Honor Society, passed the lamp of knowledge to Anjali Menon, Gr. 11 and incoming president, who promised to continue the academic and ethical integrity the seniors had modeled for them. Then it was Head of School Chris Nikoloff’s turn to give his parting words of advice to the seniors.
Nikoloff drew on his experiences as the father of 1- and 3-year-old sons, and based his humorous address on the adventures of a popular children’s literary character. “Be like Curious George,” he said: always have good intentions, keep your curiosity, and let those intensions and curiosity fuel your innovation. “Where we see mundane, George sees wonder. Who has the better vision?” he asked.
Then it was time for the seniors to process up onto the stage one by one, as their beloved class dean Jeff Draper read their names and Nikoloff handed them their diplomas. Several Harker faculty and staff and two trustees had children graduating this year: trustees Linda Emery (Christine) and Huali Chai Stanek (Andrew), executive chef Steve Martin (Taylor), US librarian Sue Smith (Kevin Laymoun), US biology teacher Gary Blickenstaff (son D.J. and niece Emma), US math teacher Gabrielle Stahl (Julian), LS math and science teacher Nina Anand (Ananya), LS P.E. teacher Paula Bither (Kristina), assistant business manager Sharon Paik (Paul) and MS English teacher Stacie Newman (Sophie).
Nikoloff and Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs, released doves to symbolize the graduates’ new journey onwards, and the faculty recessed, lining the Winery road and applauding the new graduates as they passed before their teachers for the last time.
Congratulations and best of luck to the Class of 2009!